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Nokia N810 Review: Larger and More Off-Kilter, Please

Nokia N810 Internet Tablet with WiFi, Microsd, Phone, Camera and qwerty keyboardLast month I had the opportunity to test a Nokia N810 thingamabob. It’s hard to describe with one word what the Nokia N810 is, although some try with the ungainly and insufficient “internet-tablet.” I won’t even try to stick with one word, since the N810 is many things. It is a:

very small computer (about 5″ x 2 3/4″ x 1/2″)
with WiFi Internet capability,
a Skype Internet phone with voice recording capabilities,
0.3 megapixel camera,
GPS receiver,
microSD memory card,
800×480 touch screen
and qwerty keyboard.

With a Linux operating system and a Mozilla flash-capable web browser, the Nokia N810 has the flexible capabilities to handle just about all mobile blogging tasks, including writing, podcasting and posting from… wherever you can find a coffee shop. The only significant limitation on paper in the hardware specs of the N810 is that it does not have cell phone capabilities, restricting internet usage to areas with wifi access. On the flip side, there are NO monthly fees and NO contracts (unless you want navigation with your GPS maps) to which you’ll be chained. Coming in at less than $400, I loved what the N810 could do for me…

… if only I could make it work. Pull out a keyboard, measure out five inches in length, and take a look at that keyboard. The keys are smooth, they are small and they all run together. As a result, even with a day or two of practice I just couldn’t work my way up to a fast typing rate. Because the edges of keys are aligned vertically and shoved together horizontally with no bezel to let my fingers know where one key ends and another begins, I had to keep looking as my thumbs pressed every key. That’s very slow, restricts the development of intuitive typing skill, and therefore restricts my ability to write. 5 minutes per paragraph is just not acceptable to me.

Am I the only person out there who thinks the push to make devices small has gone too far? When cameras fall down to the size of credit cards, they fall out of my hands. When phones fall down to the size of two packs of gum, I can’t dial a number accurately anymore… and when a full keyboard is shoved down to five inches of width, I cannot for the life of me type out a sentence.

If anyone at Nokia is reading this message, just remember these words: two inches. With two more inches of width, this device could still fit easily in a jacket pocket, rows of keys could be offset horizontally, individual keys could be spaced apart or at least have a beveled edge, and someone with adult-sized hands could actually use your innovative and flexible product.

The Consumer Electronics Show opens this week. Will Nokia have just such a new product to show us? My guess is no: their new N96 has a numeric, not qwerty, keypad. Perhaps the Sony P-Series will fit the bill.

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